Olympic champion Sir Chrids Hoy and singer Alexandra Burke among those braving the rain

Heavy rain didn’t deter up to 20,000 cyclists, including multiple Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy and singer Alexandra Burke, from taking to the streets of Manchester yesterday for the city’s third annual SkyRide, held on seven miles of roads closed to traffic from Castlefield to SportCity.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Hoy said: "Manchester has become the spiritual home of British cycling in recent years and has some of the best facilities in the UK, and it's great to see the enthusiasm people have for cycling in the city.

"It's a great event to get young kids into riding there bike. I think in a city environment sometimes parents can be a little concerned about letting kids out on the roads but by getting started on traffic-free roads you can help them build up that confidence.

"The aim isn't to produce future champions but just to encourage people to cycle. There are so many benefits, and if you look at the current state of the economy I think it's becoming an ever more popular way to get about."

Burke, winner of TV talent show The X-Factor in 2008, told the newspaper: "I'd bought myself a new bike the week before I was offered the chance to get into SkyRide so I thought that's got to be a sign. I've been out riding around the centre and it's a fantastic event.

"It's quite strange seeing no cars in the centre but you can tell people have really been enjoying it and making the most of it, and at the same time it's getting people healthy and active."

It wasn’t just about the stars, though, with 41-year-old Paul Hughes from Salford taking to the streets with his son Charlie, aged six.

"We've thoroughly enjoyed it and it's been brilliant to just be able to take Charlie out and take our time while having a nice ride through the streets of Manchester,” he said.

"I'm a keen cyclist and last year I just came with my mates and it shows what a great event it is for people of different ages and abilities."

Stockport couple Simon and Linda Douglas, both in their early 40s, took their children Owen, aged nine, and six-year-old Ceri.

Mr Douglas said: "I work in Manchester and it's odd seeing no cars on the road but for families like us it's a rare opportunity to get out on our bikes.

"This has definitely given us the idea of cycling together more often because it's a really enjoyable thing to do together as a family."

Quoted on the British Cycling website, which also has pictures of the event as well as a link to a Flickr gallery, Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council Executive Member for the Environment, said: "It's been fantastic to see so many people out on their bikes today for the third year of Sky Ride Manchester despite the rain! Lots of smiling faces and people of all ages out enjoying the city from a different perspective."



Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.